Geotourism and Biodiversity Conservation

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South Africa


June-July (Final dates TBC)



Application Deadline

Fill out an an enquiry form to stay up to date with enrolment processes and deadlines


Tourism enterprise, conservation, biodiversity, national parks, environment, community based development and climate Change

Consider new approaches to tourism that highlight the distinctive geology and vegetation of locations within a global biodiversity hotspot. Across Mpumalanga and into national park areas students will study geological formulations, private and public tourism strategies, community based conservation initiatives and work with locals to develop sustainable nature-based tourism opportunities.

The study trip begins in Johannesburg, where you will learn how the city went from being a mining camp in the treeless highveld to the sprawling man-made urban forest it is today. You will hear from botanists, environmental planners, climate change experts and academics about the strategies for securing water and maintaining green areas and biodiversity in the context of urbanisation and climate change.

You will travel from Johannesburg to Nelspruit, the capital of Mpumalanga province, which will be your base for the rest of the program. You’ll start your observations from the picturesque farming landscape setting of your accommodation. You will:

  • Learn about the major biomes and vegetation
  • Visit the Lowveld Botanic Gardens
  • Discuss the Mpumalanga Biodiversity Sector plan and challenges posed by mining, plantations and other land uses
  • Learn about endemism hotspots and collection of floristic and landscape data
  • Discuss traditional healing and sustainable use of plant resources
  • Speak to timber company officials about indigenous forest conservation strategies
  • Find out how community development and conservation strategies are being implemented in the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere Reserve
  • Learn about the ecology of the Kruger National Park
  • Find out how biodiversity contributes to traditional medicine
  • Find out how the dominance of Kruger National Park affects other tourism sectors in Mpumalanga
  • Learn about problems of visitor attraction and maintenance of historic towns on the escarpment
  • Hear from local and provincial tourism agency officials about the design of the Barberton Geotrail
  • Discuss challenges and opportunities for tourism initiatives in former homeland areas with local community representatives and business owners
  • Visit the Samora Machel memorial monument and discuss the potential for meaningful tourism-related employment in local communities.

During the last two days of the field trip, you’ll discuss what you have observed and learned from your observations and from talking to local tourism agencies, biodiversity experts, traditional healers, environmental managers, academics and community stakeholders about community-centred conservation and geotourism ventures.

You’ll work with others in your group to think through these issues and present back to these people some concepts for actionable programs or projects for geotourism and biodiversity conservation in the Nelspruit-Barberton-Bushbuckridge areas. Based on their comments and advice, you will rework your ideas into group research and project proposals after you return from the field.

Your final work will be published by RESEED as an edited book and presented back to the community-based organisations, local representatives, government agency officials, NGOs, and academics.

Situations are not always as you think and solutions are also not always so evident. By talking with and seeing how locals approach conservation and education issues on the ground I was able to really understand how communication and open mindedness are key to working in any field. I certainly came back from this trip with a changed attitude of my role in this world. I felt, and still feel, a profound sense of duty to be an active citizen in both my local and global community.

Corinne Bowman, 2002 student

Program costs cover
All local transfers, entry fees, accommodation, meals and publication of project proposals.

Program costs do not cover
Your university tuition fees, travel insurance, flights and/or travel before or after the trip.

Places available on trip
20 positions

Postgraduate Students, 3rd year undergraduate students.

Free Time
Optional safari to Kruger National Park for 2 days and 1 night at additional cost


This program consists of a three-week intensive-learning field trip with some pre-departure information sessions, seminars and preparation and post-fieldtrip assessments. It is designed to develop and expand your capabilities to understand the concepts of regional development and sustainability and translate these into policies and actionable projects.

All instruction and discussion will be conducted in English.

Study credit
To undertake this program for study credit, you will need to apply through an accrediting university. Please call us or send an enquiry form to ask for more details about this process.

The subjects are each worth 25 credit points. This represents one quarter (25%) of your full-time study load for a year. So, for example, if you are at a university where the academic year comprises two semesters of full-time study, this program would be equivalent to half the study credit points that you would be required to undertake during one semester.

Time commitment
Your total time commitment to the program is 340 hours. You’ll attend pre-departure information seminars and spend some time going over reading materials in preparation for your fieldtrip. During the days in the field, you’ll be spending between 5 to 8 contact hours each day with your academic coordinators (about 120 hours). In addition, you’ll keep a journal, do group work and individual research during your time in the field and afterwards to finish your assessments.
When we say intensive field learning, we really mean it! 

What you will gain from the program

  • Knowledge of different social dimensions and biophysical resource problems associated with sustainability
  • Familiarity with social, economic and environmental transformation occurring in the national and regional context of the study location
  • Practical skills and field-based experience for empirical research and policy formulation for creating sustainable communities and environments
  • Ability to do effective group-work
  • Ability to collaborate with local community organisations to identify problems and develop realistic solutions through mutual learning
  • Ability to individually design and develop proposals for actionable projects or further research to resolve problems identified conjointly with local communities
  • Capacity to pursue professional careers in urban planning and design, regional and international development, environmental science consulting and management, community-based conservation and sustainable enterprise creation. 

Types of Assessments
You will be required to complete different types of assessment tasks during and after the field component of the program.

Before you go into the field, you’ll be offered four or five topics that can be compared across Australia and South Africa. You’ll form a small team and choose one of these topics to research in the Australian context and put together a simple poster in electronic form. During the field trip, your team will make a short presentation of the poster to South African colleagues and program fellows. 

While you are in the field, you’ll be keeping a journal of your thoughts and reflections of the activities and discussions for each day. You’ll submit a shorter version of these daily accounts and reflections after you return from the fieldtrip.

You’ll be doing a lot of group work on the last two days of the field trip, figuring out what you saw, how to map out what you learned from different viewpoints, analyse these and identify issues that can be the focus of an actionable project. You will present these to your fellow field trip members, South African colleagues and community stakeholders, and receive feedback from them. This will be assessed by the coordinators with input from their South African counterparts 

After the field trip is over, you’ll work with the team that you’ve formed from the field workshop and develop a project proposal based on your field-based learning and desktop research. You’ll each be responsible for doing a section of the required work and for putting it together as a whole project document. You’ll be assessed on your individual contributions and also as a group for the quality, coherence and feasibility of the whole project.

Here’s a summary of all your assessment tasks.

Type of Assessment (Including Extent/Duration) Timing of Assessment Assessment %
1. A group poster presentation – 10 minutes During the fieldtrip 10%
2. A group oral presentation on the
last day of the fieldtrip – 20 minutes
During the fieldtrip 20%
3. A daily field journal – 3000 words After the fieldtrip, (usually 3-4 weeks later).

4. A post-fieldtrip project proposal
of 5000 words
After the fieldtrip, (usually a month after
you’ve submitted your field journal)



How you’ll receive your grades
After the program coordinators have assessed all your work, they will submit the grades and marks to the accrediting university. The University will check and process the grades and include these in your study records towards your degree.